Our California Holiday: Hiking The Gaviota Wind Caves

Achievement: #91. Gaviota Wind Caves

Each year, we take a trip back to Central Coast in California. Each year, we come up with a handful of Achievements to complete on the trip. And each year, we fall behind and get caught up in the massive task of editing the photos, cataloging the wine we bring home, and resting our muscles after hiking every damn day. But not this year; this year, we are bringing you our California Achievements while the trip is still fresh in our minds. We begin with our first hike: the Gaviota Wind Caves.

Gaviota Wind Caves
The Gaviota Wind Caves are found on a hike known as the Beach to Backcountry Trail, which is located in Gaviota State Park. The state park is in Santa Barbara County, just a short drive south on the 101 from Solvang. For a small day fee, you can park and hike the trails of the park.

Gaviota Wind Caves
As the name of the trail implies, you begin at the beach, underneath this impressive railroad bridge (which we have crossed on the train a number of times).

Gaviota Wind Caves
Don’t feel discouraged if you have a hard time finding the start of the trail; it’s well-hidden. That little grey arrow in the right edge of the photo shows the ‘trailhead’ (and I use that term loosely). From here, you will follow a steep and winding trail through a lot of weeds and brush and a few cables and wires.

Gaviota Wind Caves
But you will be rewarded for your efforts at the top of the little hill, as the trail turns to a wide, paved path for a bit.

Gaviota Wind Caves
(Don’t be scared off by the mountain lion signs – we have yet to see one, although we do regularly engage in the practice of yelling ‘HI MOUNTAIN LIONS’ every time we turn a corner. I read somewhere that talking to the lions scares them off. It’s science.)

Gaviota Wind Caves
When you see this sign, you’ll know it’s time to leave the beach and the nicely paved trail and enter the backcountry.

Gaviota Wind Caves
And this steep, very narrow little pathway is what will bring you to the caves. Going up is a challenge, but going down is actually the hardest part. You’ll need a lot of leg strength to make it down the dirt path at the end of your hike.

Gaviota Wind Caves
We were really lucky the week we were there, as it was that magical little time between the rainy season and the ultra-dry summer. There were beautiful flowers all along the hike.

Gaviota Wind Caves
Much of the trail is rocky, and there are little lizards all along the way, so be sure to watch your step.

Gaviota Wind Caves
The first wind cave you come to is rather large and open, but full of little nooks and crannies where a mountain lion could potentially be hiding. Since no one answered when I yelled HI MOUNTAIN LIONS, I figured we mightaswell stand in for them.

Gaviota Wind Caves
As you head up the hill, you are greeted with the sight of these lovely caves ahead. The promise of visiting these beautiful caves makes the steep climb more bearable (just trust me on this one!)

Gaviota Wind Caves
While the rumors are true – you can see the freeway from the trail – you can also see these amazing mountains.

Something else that is interesting to note: at the top of the trail, you get a very clear understanding of why these are called the Wind Caves. It was so warm in the sun on the lower stretches of trail, but at the top, that wind was brutal!

Gaviota Wind Caves
But the view… SO worth it. This is the view out of the little hole shown in one of our earlier photos. It’s actually big enough you could fall through it, if you weren’t careful (sorry Mum, I promise we were careful up there!). But how cool is this??

Gaviota Wind Caves
You can easily see the ocean (and the freeway) from this height. The rocks are incredible.

Gaviota Wind Caves
Here’s the railroad bridge from earlier, with the ocean and an oil rig out in the distance, taken as we made our way back down the hill.

Gaviota Wind Caves
And the out-and-back hike ends where it began: at the ocean.

The hike totaled just under 3 miles, with 764 feet of climb, according to my Garmin. This is a pretty manageable trail for anyone with careful footing. Definitely dress in layers, because the weather will change as you reach different parts of the trail. We also recommend going as early as you can. The sun will be less hot in the morning, and the views will be even more spectacular without the midday sun washout. If you ever find yourself in search of a good hike in Santa Barbara County, or a place to stretch your legs on a drive up or down the 101, the Gaviota Wind Caves are a great place to do it!

1 Comment

Filed under #91, #91-16, california, california 2016, central coast, hiking

One Response to Our California Holiday: Hiking The Gaviota Wind Caves

  1. Woubbie

    Awesome trail! Why do I get the feeling that episodes of Star Trek have been filmed here?

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